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College Pal Plays Host to President

May 10, 2003|From Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. — SANTA FE, N. M. -- President Bush calls him Rolando. He's a liberal Democrat from New York and a movie financier, and he was a fraternity brother of Bush's during their days at Yale.

Roland W. Betts is playing host to Bush and his wife, Laura, this weekend at his home in the rolling hills northwest of Santa Fe.

Betts lives in New York City. He is the chairman and founder of Chelsea Piers, a sprawling entertainment and sports complex on the city's West Side that features restaurants, ice-skating rinks, indoor soccer, a health club and a four-tier golf driving range.

In addition to the home in Santa Fe, Betts owns a house in the mountain resort community of Jackson, Wyo., where the Bushes spent a snowy weekend last year.

Betts and Bush have remained close friends -- and business partners at times -- since their days together at Delta Kappa Epsilon. When Bush was president of the fraternity, Betts was his rush chairman.

"I've been a Democrat my whole life, but I'm George's biggest fan," Betts told the New York Times in 1998.

Bush described their close friendship as "able to stand the test of time."

Bush turned to Betts in the late 1980s for help in assembling investors to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team. Betts was the lead owner, and the deal turned out to be a gold mine for Bush when the Rangers were sold.

When Bush decided to run for president, Betts was there again. He helped collect $100,000 for Bush's campaign.

Betts grew up on Long Island, went to boarding school and was the third generation of his family to attend Yale. After graduating from Yale in 1968, he taught public school in Harlem. He stayed until 1975 and later wrote a book on his experiences.

While working at the school, Betts met his future wife, Lois. They celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in 2002. The Bettses have two children.

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